My life goal revolves around something that I call the red button rule. If my phone rings at any time and I’m busy, or I don’t want to talk to whoever’s calling, I can push the red button. Any one individual, if I don’t want to talk to them anymore, if they’re stressing me out, I can push the red button. Almost everybody has people that they can’t ignore calls from no matter how stressed or busy they are. I want to keep working until I have enough leverage and momentum that one single person cannot negatively take down my life. And frankly, I’m there. No investor, customer, partner, or boss can take over my life.
It’s dangerous when the emotions, greed, anger, or instability of others can take over your life. One extreme is a boss. If you are a direct report, you have to pick up your phone when your boss calls. If they don’t like you, if they want you gone, you’re gone. That one person holds the power; if they call, you have to answer.
People are unpredictable. The less I’m dependent on other people, the better. Instead of a boss, some businesses have all of their focus on a major customer, when the customer makes up a huge part of the business. Or maybe a giant investor. I’ve been approached by a lot of big investor groups, and I know deep down that taking their money would mean that I no longer have red-button control. If I have 300 investors, all small stakeholders, I have that red button control and can push the red button if any one investor calls.
To me, ultimate freedom is the red button control. I’m not advocating for you to ignore the people you rely on, but the more partners you have the better off you are. No single person can derail you. Things change–you may mess up, your business plan may change, a customer may leave you, and having a green button problem becomes a major issue.
It’s easy to get used to dependence. You have a boss and you’re used to answering to other people. But you don’t have leverage. Your boss, your investor, your huge customer has the leverage in any negotiation. But if you can gain leverage, you get to set the terms. You play by your rules.
As you build your career you’ll start out saying yes a lot. You’ll be dependent on people who have power over you. As you grow, you become less dependent on others. I’ve pushed the green button many times, but as you grow and gain success that need goes away and you get to set the rules.
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